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One of the key players in the canonisation of
Australia’s first saint is hoping a little bit of
help from Down Under will contribute to the
canonisation of the first South African saint.
Adelaide Josephite Sister Sheila McCreanor
recently returned from the South African province
of Limpopo where she has been assisting the
Diocese of Tzaneen to promote the cause of
Daswa was declared a martyr by Pope Francis on
January 22 and will be the first South African to
Sr Sheila was heavily involved in the cause for
the canonisation of Mary MacKillop, chairing the
national media committee, and has published
a series of books comprising the writings and
musings of Australia’s first saint.
She said there were a number of challenges
facing the South African diocese, not the
least being that only around 7 per cent of the
population is Catholic and consequently there
is a lack of resources for his cause. She said
Daswa was not well known in some parts of the
country and the diocese needed to have his story
embraced by Catholics and non-Catholics alike,
as was the case with Mary MacKillop in Australia.
But Sr Sheila said she firmly believed Daswa
could be as important to South Africa as Nelson
Mandela because of his “goodness” and the way
he stood up for what he believed in.
Benedict Daswa was born in 1946 in the village
of Mbahe and was baptised as a Catholic on
April 21, 1963. He trained as a primary school
teacher and went on to become principal of Nweli
Primary School. In 1980 he married Shadi who
converted to Catholicism and they went on to
have eight children.
Described as a highly skilled educator and an
exemplary husband and father, Daswa was
involved in the parish community as catechist,
liturgical animator, promotor of works of charity
and a builder of justice and peace.
In his private and public life, Daswa took a
strong stand against witchcraft, rife throughout
the region, because it sometimes led to killing
A group of men brutally attacked him not far from
his home on February 2 1990 and he was praying
on his knees when his executioners killed him.
His fame as a martyr soon spread throughout the
province and each year, on the anniversary of
his death, a growing number of people make a
pilgrimage to his grave which is currently located
in a small cemetery
Sr Sheila said a large area of land near the site
of his martyrdom had been purchased by the
diocese to establish a shrine and a space for
people to gather and learn about Daswa’s life.
She attended a Mass and blessing of this land on
November 1 2014 when more than 3000 people
gathered for a spectacular liturgy involving the
local South African cultures. Daswa’s mother and
seven of his eight children are alive, including
Sammy, whom Sr Sheila met during her trip.
Daswa’s wife died some years ago.
Sr Sheila said she was grateful for the opportunity
to make her first trip to South Africa to share
some of the learnings from here: “It’s a wonderful
place...I have the greatest admiration for the Our
Lady of the Sacred Heart Sisters with whom I
stayed and their wonderful missionary work.”
After the South African martyr’s beatification (no
date has been set yet), the process for identifying
any graces and favours received through his
intercession will intensify.
Another Adelaide Sister, Sally Duigan, from
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart order, is based in
the Diocese of Tzaneen and has been closely
involved with Daswa’s family and his cause for
martyrdom. On a trip back home in 2011 she
accompanied two South African bishops on
a fact-finding mission to Penola and Sydney
to learn about Mary MacKillop’s canonisation
For more information on Benedict Daswa or
to make a donation to his cause, visit www.
benedictdaswa.com or join the Facebook
group “Benedict Daswa”.
Archbishop Philip Wilson has
welcomed last month’s decision
by Pope Francis to declare that
Salvadorean archbishop Oscar
Romero died as a martyr, paving the
way for his beatification.
An outspoken critic of the military
regime at the outset of El Salvador’s
civil war, Archbishop Romero was
shot dead while celebrating Mass
on March 24, 1980.
Archbishop Wilson said it was
fitting that a priest from a small
Central American country would be
beatified at a time when there was
a Latin American pope who wants a
“poor Church, for the poor”.
“Romero was a defender of the poor
in the face of cruel repression and
was shot at the altar during Mass.
His martyrdom will be an inspiration
to people around the world who are
fighting for justice and equality as
well as to those who are practising
their faith under the threat of
violence and death,” he said.
Romero’s cause for beatification
was first opened in 1994 and was
moved to Rome three years later,
but was then held up while there
were debates about whether he had
been killed for political or religious
reasons. In 2013 under Pope
Francis, his cause for sainthood was
declared “unblocked” and since
then has moved forward rapidly.
Romero decree welcomed
Aussies lend a hand
to African cause
By Jenny Brinkworth
SHARING: Sr Sheila in South Africa with two members of a special society for Catholic women
under the patronage of St Anne and, right, Benedict Daswa.
A CATHOLIC ALL BOYS’ DAY & BOARDING
COLLEGE IN THE EDMUND RICE TRADITION
Reception to Year 12
67-91 Glen Stuart Road, Woodforde SA 5072, Phone 8364 8200
Monday 16th March, 1pm - 6.30pm
The fourth Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
International Symposium – the first to be held
in the southern hemisphere – will be hosted by
Adelaide in May.
Speakers and delegates from around the world
will meet on May 22 and 23 to discuss protection
of human life, legislation and good palliative care.
The symposium, “Standing strong together”,
will include sessions for community leaders and
medical and associated health professionals
and has a speaker list of international experts,
thinkers and campaigners like Dutch professor
Dr Theo Boer, Belgian academic Tom Mortier and
Dr Paul Dunne AM, former head of palliative care
in Tasmania .
Registration for the symposium closes on
May 8. For more information visit
Pope Francis has called on
Catholics to open their hearts to
the suffering of others and confront
the problem of what he calls a
‘globalisation of indifference’.
“As long as I am relatively healthy
and comfortable, I don’t think about
those less well off,” he said in his
Lenten message for 2015.
“Today, this selfish attitude of
indifference has taken on global
proportions...,” said Pope Francis.
“Indifference to our neighbour
and to God also represents a real
temptation for us Christians. Each
year during Lent we need to hear
once more the voice of the prophets
who cry out and trouble our
“God is not indifferent to our
world; he so loves it that he gave
his son for our salvation. In the
incarnation, in the earthly life, death
and resurrection of the son of God,
the gate between God and man,
between heaven and earth, opens
once for all.”
Asking what we, as individuals,
could do to “avoid being caught
up in this spiral of distress and
powerlessness”, he said we should
not underestimate the power of so
many voices united in prayer.
“Second, we can help by acts of
charity, reaching out to both those
near and far through the Church’s
many charitable organisations.
“Third, the suffering of others is a
call to conversion, since their need
reminds me of the uncertainty of
my own life and my dependence on
God and my brothers and sisters.”
The Holy Father’s Lenten
message can be read in full at
Call to fight indifference
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